TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Christina Lhamon, director of Personnel for the Air Force Sustainment Center headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base, may be soft-spoken because of her paralyzed vocal cords, but her message is loud and clear when it comes to employing people with disabilities.
“I think that folks need to pay attention to people with disabilities,” Lhamon said. “A lot of times people are afraid to ask questions, but people with disabilities find other ways to get things done. Folks, everyone has a gift.
“If you’re forward thinking and moving forward, there’s no barriers because people with disabilities want what everyone else wants when it comes to their desire to be better, more efficient and to contribute to the community.”
A self-described farm girl from Indiana, Lhamon joined the U.S. Air Force in 1983 to “see the world,” and she served overseas in a personnel capacity before meeting her husband, now retired Staff Sgt. Ernest Lhamon, in Japan.
She received an honorable discharge in 1987 and as a military spouse she entered the corporate world. She worked in a wide variety of jobs for several global companies, before becoming a federal employee. The Lhamons also raised two daughters as they traveled extensively, living in 24 houses within 29 years.
Lhamon left a cold untreated in the 1990s and it turned into vocal cord paralysis. She lost the ability to speak for a year.
“When I lost my voice, I thought it was the end of the world because a lot of doors were closed, but that never stops what you desire to do,” she said. “Sure, you have to recognize your own limitations, but you can always work around them and move to a better tomorrow.”
Moving forward is exactly what Lhamon did. She was hired as a federal employee in 2000, earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in human resources as she worked her way up the ladder through the Department of Defense.
Lhamon was promoted to director of Personnel for the Air Force Sustainment Center in 2016. She directs personnel matters at the Air Force’s three logistics complexes.
Although she recovered her voice for many years with the help of voice therapy, Lhamon lost it again about five years ago. She said because it can be frustrating when people can’t hear her, she carefully observes people’s behaviors and how they react when she speaks to them.
This has resulted in her being very precise in what she says and Lhamon follows up with emails after a discussion to ensure others understand what she’s requested or said.
“If I could say one thing to the folks with disabilities it is that we can do absolutely anything we put our minds to because it makes us greater,” Lhamon said. “This job is great because it enables us (personnel) to facilitate reaching out to different communities and bringing people in.”
She said the AFSC hopes to introduce a hiring program after the first of the year that is more inclusive and reaches out to diverse populations of potential employees, including people with disabilities.
“We want to break down those barriers of misunderstanding and enable our folks to offer opportunities at all our locations,” Lhamon said.